It was Star Wars night at Clipper Magazine Stadium and the first 1,000 attendees got free bobblehead dolls of the Barnstormers Mascot, Cylo, dressed in Darth Vader attire. I got there an hour before game time, but that wasn’t early enough to be among the first 1,000. Almost 7,000 people showed up for the game. So the night started with a little disappointment for me. Then the Lancaster starter gave up 5 runs in the first inning and the disappointment mounted.
One of the mottos of the Barnstormers, however, is “Keep Calm and Storm on.” They did just that. The Barnstormers fought back and scored one run in their half of the first inning. They held the Sugarland Skeeters scoreless in top of the second, and scored 2 more runs in the bottom of the inning. So, with the score now 5-3, hope was returning. The Skeeters were blanked in the third and the Stormers stormed on to tie the game in the bottom of the third. The Force is strong in this team.
In between innings the Star Wars characters staged mock light saber duels on the field, and fireworks were also planned for after the game, so the thousands of children in attendance were kept entertained. While they were enjoying themselves with hot dogs and cotton candy, I was enjoying the seesaw game. The Skeeters retook the lead and the Stormers fought back. Then the pesky Skeeters would score again and the Barnstormers would respond with enough runs to keep the game close. Then the Stormers actually got their big break, when one of their guys struck out. The Skeeter catcher wasn’t able to catch the outside pitch and it went all the way to the backstop. The batter darted for first and got there well before the throw. Safe at first. The next batter took advantage of the opening and hit a two-run homer.
Both teams kept piling up runs but the Skeeters never relinquished the lead. Then in the 7th innings, another Stormer struck out on a pitch way outside that the Skeeter catcher again couldn’t reach, and he, too, reached first safely. I crossed my fingers hoping for lightning to strike twice. A homerun would tie the game. The next batter only singled, though.
The Skeeters still had an 11 to 9 lead, but the Stormers now had the tying runs on base and with two out centerfielder Beau Amaral stepped to the plate. He hit a looping fly ball down the left field line that the leftfielder raced after and dove for at the last second, but he came up empty, and the ball rolled all the way to the wall. The two men on base scored easily and as Beau chugged into third the coach frantically waved him home. The relay throw got to the plate before Beau, but not soon enough for the catcher to secure it, and a sliding Beau scored what eventually was the winning run as the ball bounced away from the hapless catcher.
I’ve seen inside-the-park homeruns in some of the huge Major-League parks, but I never before saw one in a small Minor-League park. The last time a Barnstormer hit an inside-the-park homerun, was 6 years ago, playing against the Ducks in Commack, Long Island. It was a sight to behold, and even more exciting than the post-game fireworks. The force was definitely with the Lancaster Barnstormers that night, and they increased their league lead. It looks like they’re headed to another Championship season. Storm on, Stormers.
Peace & Love, and all of the above,